The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Rocky Horror Picture Show released in 1975. It did well at a select few locations but poorly everywhere else. That wasn't great news for many of the actors since it was their first big role, including Tim Curry. Thankfully, it didn't stay that way long. The film was eventually revived by theaters who invented ways for the audience to participate, which made it a cult hit.
People absolutely loved interacting with the film by throwing popcorn, singing (and dancing) to the songs, and whooping at certain parts. It became popularized as a midnight movie. Even now, Rocky Horror Picture Show is acted out on stage at some theaters and played in movie theaters on special events.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
When Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! released in 1965, it was dismissed as exploitive by a few critics (including some of the larger ones). This wasn’t great for the film since the critics were highly respected. People just decided it was trash. Thankfully, time has helped this movie gain an intrigued audience and better reviews.
Guess listening to the critics has always been a bad move! Admirers like how the movie places a strong woman in a typical male role. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is known for swapping gender roles and the quotable dialogue. Turns out, this critical failure had something to it. Now it's regarded as a very important and influential film.
Dazed and Confused
Dazed and Confused is a victim of awful marketing. Movies require a lot of advertisement to be seen, especially in the ‘90s! This poor movie made a mere $918,127 on opening weekend (according to Wikipedia). While that’s not as bad as some of the movies on this list, it certainly wasn’t enough to label it a success.
Not only does this film have a killer soundtrack, but it also has one of the best casts in history. We’re talking Matthew McConaughey – who steals the show, by the way – Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, and Posey Parker. Now, it’s a quintessential coming-of-age movie that everyone has to see at least once.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
What?! Willy Wonka bombed? You read that right. Despite nominations for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was not a commercial success for Paramount Pictures. The company was actually so unhappy with how it performed that they decided not to renew the copyright. This allowed Warner Brothers to buy the rights, which they used for numerous TV airings.
Thanks to this strategy, the film quickly became a classic children's film. Could you imagine if WB didn’t pick it up? Funny enough, when it first debuted on TV, it also had some problems. It came on at the same time as a football game between the Raiders and Redskins. The game ran long, so the first 40 minutes were cut.
These days, we all know Shawshank Redemption is one of the best movies ever created. In fact, the movie listed as the number one movie of all time on IMDB, but it certainly didn’t start out like that. It’s genuinely crazy to think that Shawshank was a box office flop when it first released.
The first weekend it came out, the film earned around $727,000 in 33 theaters, which is an average of $22,040 per theater. Not exactly a winner. A year later, it was nominated for seven Oscars. It may have struggled at first, but if there’s any movie that’s clawed its way up from the bottom, it's this one.
By all accounts, Barbarella was a total flop. Critics hated it, and it only made around $2.5 million the year it released. That's not as bad as some of the other movies on the list, but the movie cost something like $9 million to make! That's not the success execs wanted to see.
Jane Fonda stars as futuristic heroine Barbarella in this fantasy science fiction film based on a French comic book. It did better in European audiences, but it didn’t become iconic until later. Jane Fonda’s sexy outfits (and the film itself) eventually became famous when the space-craze began. Thanks, Star Wars!
If you weren’t born in the ‘80s, you would never guess Blade Runner initially flopped. When people talk about well-made sci-fi, Blade Runner is the first thing mentioned after the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. Then there’s the whole fact that they did a sequel in 2017 of the film. So, what gives?
Apparently, when it first came out, it was misunderstood. Everyone thought they were going to get Indiana Jones in a flying car. Instead, they got a lot of special effects with a massive budget (at the time). It didn’t make its money back initially, but it did win two Oscars. That must have helped because it’s now a cult classic.
The Thing is the story of an alien parasite that wreaks havoc on researchers in Antarctica by assimilating its victims. Though it is now highly regarded, John Carpenter's science fiction horror film performed below studio expectations because of competing films and surprisingly poor reviews – and by “poor reviews,” we mean seriously savage.
Audiences and critics alike claimed that the movie had flat characters, a "drab visual sense," (according to Looper) and a relentlessly bleak tone. Today, we can look back and know why Carpenter decided to make those moves, but back then? No one really dug those decisions. Critics had an especially fun time bashing it. Well, who’s laughing now?
It's a Wonderful Life
Out of most of the films on this list, this one might be the only one that makes a little sense. Although, it’s still hard to believe that this classic Christmas film was a box office flop, but It's a Wonderful Life lost over half a million dollars for RKO Pictures.
That’s mostly because moviegoers found the subject matter too dark for such a cheery holiday. However, it found new life in 1974 when its copyright was not renewed, and the film became part of the public domain. This led to TV airings and numerous home releases that turned it into a hit.
A strange premise perhaps limited Donnie Darko's success at the box office, but what really hurt the film was that the trailers featured a plane crash. Normally, that’s all fine and dandy, but Donnie Darko was released theatrically on October 26, 2001. It’s probably not a huge shocker that people didn’t flock to theaters to see a plane crash six weeks after 9/11.
On top of that, the movie was criticized for featuring a firearm being wielded by a teenager. The world was still reeling from the Columbine disaster in 1999, so tons of people weren’t pleased about that either. In the end, it still gained a lot of fans. It leaves the viewer with a lot of things to wonder. Particularly, why are we wearing our stupid man suits?
Black comedy is one of those things that are hit or miss – usually being a big ol’ miss. Heather fell victim to that. Audiences just didn’t know how to perceive it, which is an odd thing to claim, but you’ll know what we mean. In this precursor to Mean Girls, Christian Slater and Winona Ryder deal with high school archetypes and murder.
The premise made people uncomfortable, and that’s putting it lightly. The movie just focuses on death in the most uncomfortable ways. After poor box office returns, the film found success in the world of video rental through word-of-mouth. Now, it’s one of the best cult classics that’s ever been made.
Dune, a box office flop? Absolutely. Don’t let the fact they remade it tell you otherwise! The movie only made nearly $31 million. That wasn’t even enough to cover the $40 million budget it cost to make Dune. That made it a massive disappointment. Writer and director David Lynch blamed producers.
He claimed they stifled his artistic vision. Fans of the novel and science fiction fans in general still found reasons to turn it into a cult classic, though. The fact that Sting is in it definitely helps! Now, people are curious whether the remake will suffer the same fate as the original.
Poor Tim Curry can’t catch a break. When it was released, Clue didn't even break even. It had a budget of $15 million but only brought in $14.6 million. Anyone who has seen the film knows that there are several different endings. The theaters split up these endings where you had to go to different places to see them all.
Talk about “gotta catch up all!” People didn’t know which one to go to, so they just didn’t see it at all. Soon afterward, it was more or less forgotten, but it didn’t stay that way, thankfully. In the years since then, it's become a cult classic, with fans praising the cast for their camp, slapstick performances.
Who knew Fight Club flopped? When people think of the words “Cult Classic,” they think of Fight Club. Go to any bachelor pad or high school film class and you’ll find a giant photo of Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and a bar of pink soap. But no matter what you do, don’t talk about Fight Club.
The promotional posters and general marketing didn’t connect with people. Edward Norton blamed the studio for being reluctant. Eventually, it was given a second chance, and it was a major hit, especially with younger audiences. Maybe it was a case of wrong place, wrong time? Whatever the reason, it’s one of the most popular movies out there.
Today, Office Space speaks to us in a way that hits a little too close to home. Back when it released, people didn’t really like it. Backers found Office Space difficult to market. We have no idea why. It practically markets itself, but whatever. The first weekend, it made a mere $4.2 million.
Like most movies, it went from the theater to the video store, and there it did extremely well. Over time, the actors started to get recognized more. People were giving the film the respect it deserved. Anyone who has ever worked at a large company with its own culture and procedures finds this cult classic hilarious.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has a hard start from the beginning. Over 25 years, people tried to make it. In the ‘70s, they tried to get Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando to do it. Then, it was Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Finally, in the ‘90s, it went to Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. However, producers completely missed the mark budget-wise.
It was only supposed to cost $5 million, but that bloated up to $20 million. Well, it only made $13.7 million at the box office. However, the film became a cult classic when it was released to DVD and home viewers were able to enjoy the crazy, drug-fueled antics of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo.
Ender’s Game is one of those books that has had a cult following since its publication in 1985. The movie took 28 years to get onto the big screen, a problem not helped at all by the problems the author caused. It finally made it onto the big screen in 2013, but it only surpassed its budget by $15 million, a relatively small number in Hollywood.
There are half a dozen reasons why the movie failed. Poor cast and awful marketing were terrible, but there were a few things we couldn’t look past in the 21st century – particularly Scott Card’s opposition to homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Several people boycott the movie altogether, and the bad PR made it an absolute flop.
Nowadays, Pumpkinhead is viewed as one of the best creature films of all time on top of it being an amazing horror movie. However, movie distributors didn't believe in Pumpkinhead. So, it wasn't widely marketed or released. Without good marketing, people didn’t go see it. All-in-all, this horror flick only made $4.4 million.
It didn’t even release to a lot of theaters, so no one had a lot of hope. Some even went bankrupt waiting for the movie to come out. Horror fans, however, love the vengeful monster featured in it. The film has spawned into video sequels, comic books, and a cult following.
Sid and Nancy
Sid and Nancy should have done well. It really should have. It had great actors, and even critics praised it. The issue? It was beyond a box office failure. It only made $2.8 million at the box office. That’s almost embarrassing. The punk rock Romeo and Juliet surprisingly didn’t break even.
A bigger issue was that they didn’t talk to John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten. He was angry that the movie was made without talking to him. Maybe his anger toward the film made fans flock to it, but we’re guessing it was because it was a good film, true or not.
Harold and Maude
This is another dark humor movie that did not quite enamor audiences like it would have today. The black comedy, an obsession with death, and an intergenerational romantic relationship turned audiences of Harold and Maude very much off. Critics also weren’t too happy with Roger Ebert giving it one-and-a-half stars.
Since then, the reputation of the movie has certainly exploded. Now, it has an 85% Rotten Tomatoes score. Younger generations appreciated the humor and found it absolutely hilarious. Today, Harold and Maude sits at number 45 on the list of top 100 American Comedies by the American Film Institute. Way to go!
When a director and film execs fight, it’s never good. Just take a look at the complete disaster that’s Suicide Squad (2016) – not that that movie will ever be on this list. Director Terry Gilliam battled with film executives over editing and scenes in his unique science fiction masterpiece, Brazil.
Even though few people had seen his original vision at the time, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded it their Best Picture in 1985. Brazil is so influential that other films have drawn inspiration from it, including Dark City (1998), The City of the Lost Children (1995), and Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Everybody loves Michael Cera. That’s basically a proven fact. (If you don’t believe us, go watch Arrested Development). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World took a hugely popular graphic novel and turned it into a movie. It’s a great film, but not many people have heard of it. That’s not what anyone in the movie biz likes to hear.
At the box office, Scott Pilgrim made a measly $49.3 million, and that didn’t even cover the budget. There was no real issue with this film other than marketing. People just had no idea it existed. It’s good, funny, and one of a kind. If you do find someone who has seen this movie, we can almost guarantee that they love it.
Okay, this one is a big disappointment – the fact it’s on this list, not the movie itself. The 1999 movie Iron Giant is a staple of classic animated movies. Well, at least ones that don’t center around princesses. It was produced by one of Pixar’s most successful directors. It should have done well by all accounts!
Ah, no. Sadly, it didn’t. The movie strayed too far from convention – lack of princesses, we guess – for it to be initially successful. It made less than half of its budget back. Regardless, it’s funny, heart-warming, and touching. No movie will make you cry at the word “Superman” like Iron Giant.
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Why can’t people just get along when making a movie?! Disagreement between film companies led to a limited release and a barely break-even status for this British science fiction film. What’s even worse is that critics destroyed it. Ebert said it was “so preposterous and posturing, so filled with gaps of logic and continuity, that if it weren't so solemn there'd be the temptation to laugh aloud.”
Yeah, okay, dude. A cult following has developed in the years since, mostly due to the star of the film being David Bowie. It took a while, but it finally has the appreciation it deserves. Rolling Stone now ranks it second on the top 50 sci-fi films of the ‘70s, and Empire places it at 42 on its list of 100 best British films.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
You know that any movie with a title this long will either be absolutely terrible or too artistic for the general populous to enjoy. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford falls into the second category. It stars Brad Pitt. Like his other films Seven and Inglorious Basterds, it pushes the limits of what we’re used to seeing in movies.
At the box office, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford only made half of its already small budget, but it did make its way onto many “Best Movies” lists. Whatever the issues, it became a cult classic and has a 77% Rotten Tomatoes Score. Take that, naysayers.
Wet Hot American Summer
Despite the star-studded cast (Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper), moviegoers and critics alike were not fans of Wet Hot American Summer when it was released in 2001. That was a pretty big surprise since it sold out all four screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. What gives?
Even today, Rotten Tomatoes puts it at a 38%, and Metacritic ranks it 42 out of 100. Then there were those like Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman who gave the film an "A," and named it one of the best films of the year. Time has been kind to this satirical film about summer camp – it's developed a cult following of devoted fans and received both a prequel and sequel thanks to Netflix.
Children of Men
Children of Men features a world with a horrifying premise: no one has been able to have children in decades. Think Handmaid’s Tale except less religious and more apocalyptic. The movie focuses on the first woman to become pregnant in years, and a man who is desperately trying to save her and her child.
It hardly made any money in the office, but the critics loved it. All that praise did the movie some good. People gave it a shot, and they loved it – duh! It’s an excellent film. It was brought up recently, as well, with the world in its current state. Some commentators claiming that the movie is “prescient.”
Plan 9 From Outer Space
Today, we know Ed Wood to be one of the movie greats, but back then, not so much. Plan 9 had some issues coming out at first, and when it finally did, it was shown alongside Time Lock. That movie was pretty unimpressive and is only remembered for being an early on-screen appearance of Sean Connery.
Later that year, it wasn’t treated any better. It was called a “co-feature,” aka a B-movie. A lot of that has to do with the media often saying Plan 9 from Outer Space is the worst movie ever. Today, it’s a cult classic. The science-fiction horror piece and features aliens resurrecting Earth's dead.
The book The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a modern classic unlike any other. Seriously, go by your local bookstore on your way home from work and snag a copy. Like any book-to-movie with an established following, standards were high. In a new turn for Hollywood, the film managed to meet those standards.
It won more Academy Awards in 2011 than any other film that year (11) and added another Golden Globe to the producer’s collection. Sadly, the film barely exceeded its budget. That doesn’t change the fact that fans lauded it as one of the best book-to-movie films ever made, and we respect that.
Treasure Plant could have been one of Disney’s masterpieces, but it was a total flop for several reasons. First, Disney failed in advertising. They didn’t want the movie to succeed because it was expensive to make. It used technology that was being phased out in favor of cheaper, faster CGI (the stuff we see today). In the trailer, it gave away the major plot points.
On top of that, viewers knew that they didn’t have to physically go see the movie. If they really wanted to see it in theaters, they could wait for it to be on VHS a few months later – this was all due to the release date. As the final death knell, Disney released it at the same time as Harry Potter and its own blockbuster, Santa Clause 2. This movie is the amazing tale of Treasure Island designed by the legendary Ron Clements and John Musker (the geniuses behind Moana and Princess and the Frog).